Media conference stresses need for an independent media

07 November 2016
Media conference stresses need for an independent media
Fifth Conference on Media Development in Myanmar at the Chatrium Hotel in Yangon on 07 November 2016. Photo: Thet Ko/Mizzima

As questions over media freedom come to the fore under Myanmar’s new government, government officials, analysts and media people are meeting in Yangon to discuss the challenges.
The fifth annual Myanmar Media Development Conference is being held at the Chatrium Hotel in Yangon 7-8 November under the title of “Inclusive Independent Media in a New Democracy”.
As International Media Support (IMS), a co-sponsor of the event points out, this is a matter that cannot be underestimated in a country where a fragile peace process is relying on professional media to support negotiations thorough, pluralistic, balanced and informed coverage.
One particular theme IMS highlights it that media outlets carry much of the responsibility for keeping alive the gender stereotypes and general gender inequality that pervades Myanmar society.
As IMS says, if large parts of society from women to minority and ethnic groups are not represented in mainstream media, they are unable to engage in and contribute to the country’s ongoing democratic process.
They highlight “a new and exciting report” published in November 2016 by Fojo Institute with IMS support, that maps the gender inequalities in Myanmar media – an imbalance that women themselves seem to be reproducing as well in their coverage.
For the fifth consecutive year, national and international media stakeholders, members of civil society and government representatives are meeting to discuss the status of and way forward for media development in Myanmar, and this year, in particular, will be an opportunity for engagement with the country’s newly elected government.
One of the main sessions will deal with the safety of journalists on which IMS’ Head of Asia will share examples of best practices when it comes to establishing locally led safety mechanisms for journalists. The key to mechanisms that work lies partly in ensuring a broad support base, the buy-in of a wide range of media stakeholders from journalist unions to media houses, civil society and when possible, local and national government.
The 2016 conference will give particular attention to issues of gender and ethnicity in Myanmar’s media. Efforts have also been made to ensure a balanced representation of gender and ethnicity on each panel, and the situation of ethnic media and female journalists will be a cross-cutting theme. One session will be devoted entirely to a discussion of women and media, according to IMS.
Discussions at this year’s conference will draw heavily from the recently-published Assessment of Media Development in Myanmar published by IMS and UNESCO. Based on UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators, the report analyses the Myanmar media sector and provides a baseline for the curresituation and recommennt dations for improvements.
The conference takes place against a backdrop in which controversy has blown up over alleged restrictions for media in covering the conflict in Rakhine State, and the recent dismissal of a foreign journalist working for Myanmar Times over her coverage of alleged violence against women in the conflict zone.
The 5th Myanmar Media Development Conference is organised by the Myanmar Press Council, Myanmar Journalist Association, Myanmar Journalist Network, Myanmar Journalist Union, Burma News International and Myanmar Journalism Institute with support from Myanmar Ministry of Information (MoI), UNESCO, the IMS-FOJO Media Development Programme in Myanmar, Deutsche WelleAkademie, USAID, Centre for Law and Democracy, Internews, DVB, ARTICLE 19, Mizzima, and FHI 360.